Mike Rowe rips ‘exponentially expensive’ college costs: 'It’s bananas’

Georgetown University report shows college costs have surged 169% since 1980

As the costs for community, public and private universities have shot up over time, "How America Works" host Mike Rowe agreed that college isn’t worth attending anymore when there are more affordable – and sometimes more profitable – learning and career opportunities.

"It's more expensive than it's ever been, but it's also more expensive than health care. It's more expensive than real estate. It's more expensive than energy," Rowe said on "Varney & Co." Friday. "Never in the history of Western civilization has a thing become more exponentially expensive faster than the cost of a four-year degree. That's fact. If that doesn't make you angry, then I don't know what [will]. It's bananas."

The cost of college and university programs have surged 169% since 1980, according to a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

"We've told an entire generation that the best path for most people is the most expensive path. And we've also promoted college not on its merits, but at the expense of every other kind of degree or any kind of certification training," Rowe reacted to the statistic.


Schools like Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, charged $65,652 per year for tuition during the 2022-2023 academic year, according to The College Investor. Columbia University had an annual tuition cost of $65,524, while other high sticker-price schools include Reed College at $64,450; Vassar College at $63,840; and Tufts University charging $63,804 per year.

Mike Rowe on rising college costs

"How America Works" host Mike Rowe talks with Stuart Varney about the "exponentially expensive" cost of a four-year degree Friday. (Getty Images)

On the other hand, vocational schools or trade programs may cost a fraction of those prices, Rowe pointed out. He argued the pro-college culture within the U.S. education system treats trades as a "consolation prize."

In an effort to support young people who want to pursue vocational or industrial jobs, Rowe created his nonprofit, mikeroweWORKS Foundation. In the month of March alone, the charity CEO awarded $1 million in work ethic scholarships to students.

"My foundation focuses on the millions of jobs that are available that don't require a four-year degree. We offer a couple million bucks a year in work ethic scholarships. We're doing it right now," Rowe said.

The "How America Works" host has also offered apprenticeships as college alternatives. Over the past decade, college enrollment has declined about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%, the Wall Street Journal reported based on federal and Urban Institute data.

"Four-year enrollments are down, trade schools are up. And let me just say real quick, I know it's going to come back over the net at me when I say that, it's going to be, ‘Oh, he's anti-college, he's anti-education.’ I’m not," Rowe previously told host Stuart Varney. "I'm simply saying that after decades of telling generations of kids, the best path for the most people is the most expensive path, we've created this problem that we have right now. I think the ship is starting to turn."


After job growth and hirings slowed last month, Rowe further argued that the American work and education culture created "the fault in our stars."

"Seven-point-two million able-bodied men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not only not working, they're affirmatively not looking. That's never happened before in peacetime in this country," he said. "So who's going to pick up the slack?"


FOX Business’ Aislinn Murphy contributed to this report.